Floyd Mayweather might be Manny Pacquiao’s rival for the honor of best boxer in the world and biggest boxing superstar in the world, but there’s no question who his biggest rival is in the ring: Juan Manuel Marquez, who has given him 36 rounds of hell dating back to 2004. And now they’ll meet for another scheduled 12, in a Dec. 8 fight in Las Vegas.
After much futzing about, Pacquiao-Marquez IV is official. And this time, I’m leaning toward thinking the Mexican finally finally gets his Filipino white whale, after a close draw and two close decision losses.
Pacquiao is coming off a loss to Timothy Bradley, although it’s a loss with which very few agree. Marquez is coming off a less-than-superb outing himself. But at age 39, Marquez still seems to burn with a passion for boxing that Pacquiao once had but increasingly lacks. Pacquiao hasn’t looked like the old catapult/battering ram/smasher of castles for a while now. Nor does he seem all that enthusiastic about fighting in December; check out Philppine Star reporter Abac Cordero listing all the people who are pushing Pacquiao to fight, and notice how the name of Pacquiao and his wife Jinkee aren’t on it. If I could place a prop bet that Pacquiao pulls out of this deal, announced by Top Rank but with no quote by Pacquiao, I would.
Not even trainer Freddie Roach is amped to fight Marquez a fourth time, and Roach is often the one prodding Pacquiao to motivate a boxer who sometimes seems to have an undiagnosed case of attention deficit disorder.
Then there are some fans who aren’t all that interested, hoping instead to see Pacquiao fight someone new. Except we know “new for newness’ sake” doesn’t make as much money, or else Pacquiao would have done more pay-per-view buys against Timothy Bradley than he did for a third meeting with Marquez. That says to me that the “fresh match-ups” argument is being drowned out by the “known quantities” argument, at least for now.
My own taste for Pacquiao is for this fight, if not Mayweather. Pacquiao’s fading zeal for the sport has made me less interested in him over the last couple fights — he seems to be going through the motions in the ring these days, and that’s not the can’t-miss show it once was. But Pacquiao is still pretty good entertainment, and is still about as big as they get in the sport. And if he’s going to fight anyone, why not someone against whom he’s had three entertaining nip-and-tuck brawls, even if the third one didn’t equal the first two?
And, yeah, as a Marquez fan — I’ve also traditionally been a Pacquiao fan — I kind of want to see him pull it off, and the time is riper than ever. Marquez proved against Pacquiao last time that he could be effective as a welterweight, unexpectedly enough. This time, he’ll have that going for him, and an opponent whose attachment to the sport grows distant by the day. How much of a joy would it be to see Marquez erase all those close non-wins and finally get his hand raised? And how much would it shake up the boxing world?
(Oh, one last thing about this fight to provide a minor thrill. There will be no sanctioning organization belt on the line. The fight will not suffer one iota for that. And the money that might otherwise go to a sanctioning org will instead go to a charity. Well done, Pacquiao, Marquez and Top Rank.)